NEIL Lennon insists there is more to come from Gary Hooper after his red-hot striker grabbed a double – including his 50th goal in the SPL – in Celtic’s 4-0 win over Ross County at Parkhead.
The former Scunthorpe striker has been prolific since signing in 2010 for £2.4million and, after skipper Scott Brown had fired the home side into the lead a minute into the second-half, he popped up with two headers from close-range to take his overall SPL tally to 51.
The Celtic manager’s day was complete when he saw winger James Forrest making a scoring return as a second-half substitute after recovering from a hamstring injury that had kept him out since the end of October.
The Northern Irishman, though, continues to be impressed by his top striker – whom he is hoping will sign a new contract.
He said: “I fancied him to score but his all-round game was top class and I think he will only get better. He is an intelligent player. There are things you can’t coach and one thing I’ve always liked about him since the day I saw him is his football intelligence.
“He can drop off into spaces or he can play on the shoulder of people and he has that natural knack of scoring goals – he scored two headers which is another thing he is adding to his game. I don’t know what he has got for the season. It might be 15 or 16, so again we are getting a great return of goals, but it is what he brings to the team with his all-round play.”
On the subject of a new contract for Hooper, an issue which has been the subject of seemingly endless discussion for weeks, Lennon said: “I haven’t spoken to his agent but the soundbites I am getting from Gary is that he is delighted with things and happy to stay here.”
Celtic are five points ahead of Inverness with a game in hand and could have the title effectively won before meeting Italian giants Juventus in the last-16 of the Champions League in February and March.